Dear Maria,

I’m retiring from my job of 22 years in the same place very soon and am training my replacement, who seems to be picking up on everything pretty quickly. She’s very sweet and willing to work. My dilemma is that from now for the next 3 weeks I sort of feel unneeded, unless of course something that happens once a month or only periodically comes up and I can train her on that. I no longer sit at my own desk since my computer with all the other things needed is there. I’m used to doing everything myself. I know I have created my own problem in my head, but I guess I just need to figure out how to be accepting of the feeling and know that it will be over with in a few short weeks. Any suggestions, Maria?


Soon to Return to Homemaking

Dear Soon to Return,

Congratulations! 22 years is a big accomplishment, and the way your company is handling the transition says they value your work. They secured your time and attention for sufficient weeks to train the new person, plus anticipate any special situations that may come up. I’ve worked in places where my predecessor left on bad or hasty terms, and piecing together their work trail was so frustrating. I’m glad management honored you, and your position, enough to make the transition as smooth as possible.

The work environment you’ve described, however, is a little awkward. It’s hard to give your work, and work space, to someone else. And, having lost access to a computer or meaningful tasks to pass the time, of course you feel unneeded. Have you spoken to your employers about your situation? Maybe there are some important but not urgent projects you could tackle. How about those files or closets that are a mess because there just wasn’t time? You’re the perfect person, with all your organizational history, to take on projects like that. If there aren’t any projects, or they are unwilling to delegate them to you, then get creative with your time. How do you plan to spend your retirement days? Is there some research you can do (bring in your own tablet or laptop) on travel, classes, hobbies, or volunteer opportunities you’d like to pursue? It would have been bad form to surf the internet before, but now that you’re “on call,” maybe you can do this at your temporary desk.

Don’t be too hard on yourself for “creating my own problem in my head.” Transitions are emotional and stressful, even the happy ones. Being separated from your old command central makes you feel not only unneeded, but sad, too. There’s real grief in saying goodbye to a job you’ve held for over two decades. There may also be some fear in anticipation of full time retirement, how you’ll fill your days, and how things will change with your spouse and/or family. In any case, you are a jumble of feelings right now, all normal. Give yourself permission to cry when you need to, or take a walk outside the office to get some fresh air. Take some deep breaths, and remember, “This too shall pass.” You might whistle this tune when you feel down, and set your sights on the next, rich phase of your life.